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Discovering Mexico: Mystical Underworld Of The Riviera Maya

Discovering Mexico: Mystical Underworld Of The Riviera Maya

When you look at the map of all known cenotes that dot the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico, you might very well think you were looking at night sky with thousands of stars, so numerous are the cenotes that litter this part of the country.

This network of flooded caves  is one of the world’s beautiful and in the same time dangerous diving spots. The underwater caverns were created when sections of land collapsed on the Yucatan Peninsula, creating sinkholes called cenotes.

At one time, the caves were used by the Mayans for human sacrifices. Maya priests in the city of Chichen Itza in the Yucatan peninsula sacrificed children to petition the gods for rain and fertile fields by throwing them into sacred sinkhole caves.

Discovering Mexico: Mystical Underworld Of The Riviera MayaThis is El Cenote Sagrado, the Sacred Well, found at the northernmost point of the Chichen Itza archaeological zone.

The caves served as a source of water for the Mayans and were also thought to be an entrance to the underworld.

Since the 1980s, fewer than half of the estimated 6,000 caves on the peninsula have been explored and mapped by divers.

Each cenote is inhabited by colorful fish, some have cliffs to jump from or you can even find a zipline. Whether you’re staying in Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum or near Merida you can easily find a few cenotes around.

After early morning turtle snorkelling tour in Akumal was cancelled because of stormy weather we decided to go underground and explore the fascinating world of cenotes. The Hidden Worlds is really best known location in Yucatan peninsula for that purpose.

Travel tips: Hidden Worlds Cenotes Park location: Km 115 Carretera Tulum-Cancun, Tulum 77760, Mexico

We have booked private guided tour to discover Hilario’s Well. 

Discovering Mexico: Mystical Underworld Of The Riviera MayaThe relatively small and shallow Hilario's Well is best for snorkelers.

This underground magnificent cave is 100% natural with the exception of the lighting for your safety and viewing pleasure.

After a short, leisurely 10 minute walk down a jungle path you will come upon the entrance to Hilario’s Well, its simple vertical descent (you enter by going down a ladder) belying the hidden world that waits below.

This cave really impressed me from the beginning, and I was so exited to go inside until my wife lifted her flashlight towards the ceiling and saw thousands of bats! She was terrified but our guide informed that it is very safe to snorkel so we walked deeper into the cave.

Discovering Mexico: Mystical Underworld Of The Riviera MayaInside the caves the geological formations such as stalactites, which hang like icicles from the cave's ceiling, and stalagmites, which extend upwards from the cavern floor, which often join to create columns, are a spectacular sight to see.

Before entering, everyone’s briefed on how to avoid touching the stalactites and stalagmites to limit human contamination. There’s no electricity, or glaring lights to show the way, or footways. You are provided with the waterproof flashlights which will be the only source of light in some of cave areas, so better to hold it tight in your hand all the time. 

Travel tips:Some passages are so narrow that you can only squeeze through it vertically sidewise, so be careful and move forward very slow. This is not for anyone who is claustrophobic or anxiety ridden. Being familiar with snorkeling would help, too.

We headed towards what looked like just a wall and watched the guide disappear under it. You literally squeeze through and under stalactites. It is unbelievable! We followed suit and came up into a really large and eerily quiet cave. The guide gave some info on how old it was and how the stalactites were formed.

Discovering Mexico: Mystical Underworld Of The Riviera MayaHilario's Well is dimly illuminated by the sunlight above
Discovering Mexico: Mystical Underworld Of The Riviera MayaThe Cenote is very famous for its stalactites, stalagmites, its lights effects and its fossil shells

Our guide Chito turned out to be a great swimmer and possessed deep knowledge about cave system, he can be seen on video below.

Once inside, the magic and majesty of this cenote begins to take effect immediately as you look around at the time-etched formations of stalactites and flowstone. There are a few spots that are lighted, making the cave look amazing.

Discovering Mexico: Mystical Underworld Of The Riviera MayaThere are a few spots that are lighted, making the cave look amazing.

Upon entering the crystal clear cool waters for this snorkeling adventure, we were so impressed to discover the intense beauty shimmering just below the waterline. The water is a bit cold, but you get used to it quickly. 

Travel tips: My wife was a bit cold at the end, so I’d suggest for those who are sensitive to cold waters to bring the long sleeve water shirts or wetsuit.

Discovering Mexico: Mystical Underworld Of The Riviera MayaEach cenote is inhabited by colorful fish
Discovering Mexico: Mystical Underworld Of The Riviera MayaThis cave systems has red guide ropes to follow, in addition to your guide.

Hilario’s Well and its densely packed stalactite, stalagmite, and flowstone formations have created an awesome spectacle out of the mysteries of geology and nature

Floating along, we had found our way through this highly decorated, labyrinthine underground waterway and truly lost ourselves within its incredible beauty, the outside world seemed only a distant memory. 

All too soon our dream had to end, and we had to return to real life. Emerging from underground we were again lost for words at what we had just encountered. This unforgettable cenote tour was really packed with excitement and wonder, leaving us spellbound with memories of this ancient underground river.

Photography © Gurcan Sarisoy

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